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Understanding World Religions
Zondervan Academic

Understanding World Religions

This course explores the world’s broad sweep of religions under the categories of African religions, the Yogic traditions (including Buddhism), and the Abrahamic traditions.

At a Glance

  • An introduction of the most important figures, practices, and writings of the world’s main religions
  • Insights into the formation and distinctives of each religion, as well as the broad traditions under which the world’s religions fall
  • Access to all course material—video lectures, readings, key concept reviews, and quizzes
  • Access to the Cerego learning system to build memory retention of course objectives
  • 24/7 access for 12 months to complete the course at your own pace


120 hours


This course can be taken for academic credit through the BibleMesh Institute: Click Here.

More Details

Globalization and high-speed communication put twenty-first century people in contact with adherents to a wide variety of world religions, but usually, valuable knowledge of these other traditions is limited at best.

On the one hand, religious stereotypes abound, hampering a serious exploration of unfamiliar philosophies and practices. On the other hand, the popular idea that all religions lead to the same God or the same moral life fails to account for the distinctive origins and radically different teachings found across the world’s many religions. Many Christians, in particular, desire a deeper understanding of the world’s religious landscape.

This course, based on the textbook Understanding World Religions: An Interdisciplinary Approach by author and professor Irving Hexham, presents religion as a complex and intriguing matrix of history, philosophy, culture, beliefs, and practices. With the understanding that a certain degree of objectivity and critique is inherent in the study of religion, Hexham guides students in responsible ways of carrying this out. Of particular note is Hexham’s inclusion of African religions, which have frequently been absent from major religion texts. He surveys these in addition to varieties of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Course Outline

  1. Introductory Issues and a Biased Canon
  2. African Traditions, Part 1
  3. African Traditions, Part 2
  4. The Origin of Yogic Religions
  5. The Richness of Hindu Tradition; Rethinking the Hindu Tradition
  6. Gandhi the Great Contrarian
  7. Buddhism
  8. Development of Buddhist Belief and Practice
  9. The Moral Quest of Edward Conze; Other Yogic-Type Religions
  10. Early Judaism; Rabbinic and Other Judaisms
  11. Jewish Faith and Practice; Martin Buber’s Zionist Spirituality
  12. Christianity and Christian History
  13. Christian Faith and Practice; Christian Politics
  14. The Challenge of Islam; Muslim Beliefs and Practices
  15. Muslim Piety; Rebirth of Contemporary Islam


About the Technology

Author & Instructor

Irving Hexham
Dr. Irving Hexham

Ph.D., University of Bristol, M.A.
University of Bristol, B.A.
University of Lancaster

Irving Hexham is professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary and adjunct professor of World Christianity at Liverpool Hope University. He has published twenty-seven academic books, including The Concise Dictionary of Religion, Understanding Cults and New Religions, and Religion and Economic Thought, plus eighty major academic articles and chapters in books, numerous popular articles, and book reviews. Recently he completed a report for the United Nations’ refugee agency on religious conflict in Africa and another for the Canadian Government’s Department of Canadian Heritage on Religious Publications in Canada. He is listed in Who’s Who in Canada and various scholarly directories. In 2008, he was honored at the historic Humboldt University in Berlin with a Festschrift, Border Crossings: Explorations of an Interdisciplinary Historian (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag).